Traveling Belize: Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef

September 9th, 2018 - posted under: Furthermore » Inspiration

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Belize is the most beautiful snorkeling and diving destination you’ve maybe/probably never heard of. The majority of people I talk to have only a very general sense of the country (“Is it somewhere in Central America?” (yes) and “They speak Spanish there, right?” (no) is how the conversation usually goes). I feel like Belize is sort of still a secret, which is why I’m so excited to share my Belizean adventures here. I fell completely in love with this country, and I want to share that love!

Belize is an equatorial paradise, with a rich melting pot of people and culture, lush tropical jungles full of incredible wildlife, pristine Mayan ruins, that crystal clear Caribbean water, and of course — some of the very best snorkeling and diving in the entire world.



The barrier reef off the coast of Belize is the second largest in the entire world. But even though it’s a developing country with limited resources, Belize has taken great care to preserve and protect the integrity of the space. This reef is practically pristine, because there are strict regulations in place to protect it. It’s inspiring!


Oooooh barracuda!

You can access the reef from many parts of Belize — it essentially spans the entirety of the coastline. We were in the north, staying on the tiny island of Caye Caulker, and we did a lot of research for our snorkeling trip. With over 1,200 reviews and maintaining a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor, Caveman Snorkeling Tours was the clear winner.

We booked the full day tour, which promised a minimum of 7 stops. It didn’t disappoint.

First Stop: The Coral Gardens

Perfect for our first dip and to test our gear, the Coral Gardens is a sprawling and diverse collection of corals in relatively shallow water, with a mellow, gentle current. I didn’t even know you could see so many different types of coral all in one place.



Alas, none of my pics could accurately capture the beauty of the wildlife. So, no flora and fauna photos here.

However I did learn an important snorkeling lesson: your mask will seal fine, you don’t need to make it THAT tight.



2: Hol Chan Marine Reserve

Hol Chan is Mayan for “little channel”. The Hol Chan Reserve is Belize’s oldest marine reserve, and was established by Belizean conservationists who were concerned over the unchecked fishing and diving on the reef.

This stop was absolutely incredible: a 45-minute guided snorkeling tour through the reef. We saw barracudas and moray eels and sharks and turtles and rays, dozens of beautiful and brightly colored tropical fish, and about a hundred different types of corals.


Captain Ron leads the tour.

Spotted rays are so stunning, I wish the photo could really capture the beauty.

A lovely little Loggerhead taking in a sea grass lunch.

Chomp chomp!

3: Chatto’s Place

Chatto’s Place is a shallow area in the middle of the ocean, where an old conch fisherman (that’s Chatto) used to come every day to clean his catch. Which means that the entire sea floor, in this one particular place, is covered with discarded conch shells.

We didn’t get any pictures from this spot, but it was totally unique.

4: Shark Ray Alley

Another spot in the middle of the ocean, this is an area where all the fisherman used to congregate to clean their catch. The sharks learned to come to the sound of the boats idling there, knowing that the water would be full of the fishermen’s throw-aways. And now, so many years later, they still come.


As soon as the boat begins to idle, the water darkens with dozens of huge, hungry bodies.

And seriously, these are big sharks. BIG. I mean, I know they’re a non-aggressive species . . . but look at those eyes! They are big and SCARY. Some of them were bigger than me — 7 ft or more!

Not to be outdone, this ray was also enormous.

5: Sunken Barge

YOU GUYS! It was an actual sunken shipwreck! I die.


Legit giant barge at the bottom of the ocean.

It was totally cool.


All of my life I’ve dreamed of swimming with manatees. They live all along the coast of Belize, but they’re transient and seasonal, so you never know if you’re going to get to see them. And man oh man, I sooo wanted to see them! Crossed all my fingers and all my toes, and then there at the very end — there they were!


They are beautiful, exquisitely strange creatures.

What we’d actually found was a mating pair, in the process of courtship!


♥ ♥ ♥

Final Stop: Tarpons and Seahorses

There were two more stops on our trip — one to hand-feed giant tarpons, and one to visit a seahorse preserve (we saw wild seahorses!), but I didn’t take any pictures of those. Bad blogger. Sorry!

All in all, this day was absolutely magical and completely exceeded my expectations.

It was a long day in the sun with tons of swimming, and by the time our boat docked, we were utterly exhausted. Jeremy and I wandered out to the farthest point on the island, found a large stump to sit on, and watched the sun set over the Caribbean.



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